Millions of Americans held parties across the US last night, including at the gates of the White House, as they celebrated their new leader who will bring in a different era of politics and transform race relations in the country.
As the “racial barrier” fell, Americans reflected on how far the nation had come – President George Bush described Barack Obama’s journey as “a triumph of the American story”.
In its editorial, the Los Angeles Times said: “By any measure, this is a monumental day in our nation’s history.
“The election of Barack Obama symbolises the resurrection of hope and the restoration of belief in a country that has often failed to treat its black citizens as kin.”
It said Mr Obama’s “words and vision have built a bridge back into the American family”.
“Obama’s historic win is the triumphant closing of a circle of possibility begun when former slaves boldly imagined that one of their offspring would one day lead the nation that enslaved their ancestors,” it said.
“Today is a benchmark that helps to fulfil – and rescue – America’s democratic reputation.
“The Oval Office is the ultimate symbol of national access to power.
“If the levers of influence are weighted with bias or unjust privilege, they swing away from the promise of democracy, which is America’s greatest legacy.
“Today, Americans of all stripes can be proud that the ideals of the founders, though trumped over the centuries by grievous instances of racism and sexism, have finally found us.”
On the east coast, the New York Times declared: “Racial barrier falls in decisive victory”.
“This is one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts,” it said.
“An American with the name Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a white woman and a black man he barely knew, raised by his grandparents far outside the stream of American power and wealth, has been elected the 44th president of the United States.
“His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens.
“He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalised world.”
It concluded: “That is a start. The nation’s many challenges are beyond the reach of any one man, or any one political party.”
The New York Daily News reflected on “how far we’ve come” and said: “Today, this nation – so haunted by the original sin of slavery, so riven by the torments of race and yet so dedicated to the ideal that all men are created equal – has elevated a black man to the presidency.
“We are the beneficiaries of our better angels – while seeming in no small measure surprised that they have won out.
“The question asked time and again over the last two years has been answered: Americans were ready after all – yes, we were – to welcome a black man to the White House.”
It went on: “It is a glory that so much of the American electorate of 2008 chose Obama neither because of his heritage nor despite it.
“They went with this son of a Kenyan father and a white mother because of the quality of his person and his approaches to the issues.”
The New York Post added that it was “one of the most momentous election nights in American history”.
“And a tip of the hat to America, too,” it said.
“Just two generations ago, an African-American who attempted to cast a ballot courted violent death in the dark of night – but now a black man will ascend to the highest office in the land.
“This is a tribute to how far the nation has progressed since the days of Bull Connor’s fire-hoses and George Wallace’s ugly rhetoric.
“But it’s even more a tribute to Barack Obama, who began this campaign as a longshot even for the Democratic nomination.
“Barack Obama’s election is a landmark moment in American history. He now has the opportunity to effect a truly transformational presidency.”
And the Chicago Tribune said Obama’s victory was “one of those events that reveal how far the nation has travelled”.
“When he was born in 1961, African-Americans risked death merely to register to vote in some Southern states,” it said.
“The pivotal civil rights and voting rights laws had yet to be enacted. Yet today, the nation is willing to entrust its future to a man whose father was black.
“His election is a moving vindication of the ideals on which this nation was founded.
“Obama could not have dared to run for president if he didn’t believe his fellow citizens could overcome the pitfalls of the past and the present to achieve a better future.”
The Washington Post heralded “a new dawn in the nation’s long struggle to bridge its racial divide”.
It was “momentous for the generational change it heralds, the geographic realignment it reflects and the racial progress it both acknowledges and promises”.
“Most of all, Mr Obama’s victory is momentous for the opportunity it presents to put the country on a new and better path, imbued, as he said last night, with a new spirit of patriotism, service and responsibility.”